Over recent decades, the world has seen incredible progress in reducing child mortality and tackling infectious diseases. Thanks to better vaccines and other interventions, child mortality has decreased by more than 50% since 1990. We are on the verge of eradicating polio. HIV is no longer a certain death sentence. And half the world is now malaria-free.
Yet there is one area where the world isn’t making much progress: pandemic preparedness. This failure should concern us all, because we failed to handle swine flu outbreak in 2009. Although H1N1 influenza wasn’t as lethal as people initially feared, it called attention to our inability to track the spread of disease and develop new tools for public health emergencies. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa 4 years ago was another wake-up call, as the number of confirmed cases climbed, the death toll mounted, and local health systems collapsed. Again, we are fighting against COVID-19 where the world was much too slow to respond. And every year, advances in science make it easier for somebody to create a biologic weapon of mass destruction.
What the world needs is a coordinated global approach to pandemics that will work regardless of whether the next pandemic is a product of humans or of nature. Specifically, we need better tools, an early detection system, and a global response system. The goal is the capability to develop, test, and release new vaccines in a matter of months rather than years.
Are you prepared?
Note: Credit Bill Gates.